Friday, May 1, 2009
“Ironing Out” Work
"Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work."
There is an old expression, or figure of speech, rather, that says that one can "Have too many irons in the fire." This expression comes from blacksmiths, I believe, who would heat up their irons in the fire to shape them into tools or horse shoes, or whatever they were working on or crafting. When the iron would cool, it would cease to be moldable. They would place the iron back into the fire and pick up another that was being heated in the fire and the process would continue so that their work was constant and fluid so that they could maximize their productivity.
If you had “too many irons in the fire,” it would be easy to lose track of what you were working on. You could also leave your works in progress in the fire for too long if you had too many going and they would be ruined. Balance is a key to doing good blacksmith work. It is also an art as much as it is a science.
Balance is the key to doing any work, because of these same reasons mentioned. If we do not have a balance in our work, we may mess up what we have going because we cannot give it the time and attention that it deserves. If we are not doing enough work, or in this case, if we do not have enough irons in the fire, then we waste time and our work ceases to be fluid and we stop being as productive in our work. There seems to be a line that one has to walk in his or her work. Either one works too little and is lazy or one works too much and is sloppy and has poor quality in what they do.
This is the trap that I find myself in. I have the tendency to "Have too many irons in the fire." This can make me sloppy and can make my work poor quality. I am always working on a variety of differing projects at the same time. At times, this is a “juggling act.” This doing too many things steals the joy and pleasure that my work is supposed to be, as well as affecting the final product as it pertains to quality and excellence. There is supposed to be a balance in our work and work is supposed to be fulfilling and pleasurable. Work is supposed to be a joy and it is a blessing.
I find that work can be a burden and not a pleasure if there is too much of it or if there is too little work. There has to be a balance. To overwork is sinful and to under-work is laziness and is also sinful. We tend to lean toward one or the other, but I believe we are called to a balance and that we are supposed to work as unto the Lord. Our work is supposed to point to the God who we serve. Our labors work to make God Himself look good.
I love what Proverbs 30 verses 7 through 9 have to say about balance. These verses are not so much about work, but there is a principal that we can find here about work and balance and over- and under-functioning and what this says about our view of God and self. Here is what these verses say:
"And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.”
The writer of this proverb captures something very important here concerning balance, though he is speaking simply of provisions. We can pervert even a good thing, such as having enough to eat, or having enough money, or in this case having enough work. If we work too much, it is tempting to look at our labors and say, “Look what I have done!” and subtract God out of the equation, and maybe even forget God all together. If we work too little, others may say of us, “Look at how lazy this person is!” and then we make God, whom we love and serve, look bad and we dishonor Him and His name in the marketplace.
Our prayer and our effort in our work and lives should be like the prayer of the author of Proverbs 30:7-9, “Give me enough work and provisions that I recognize you, God, and praise your name. Do not give me too much, so that I rely on myself or put myself in your place. Do not give me too little that I may curse you or defame your name by sinning against you. Help me to know you more and make you look good in life and work.”
Being worked on to honor Jesus’ name,
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:22-25
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Pr 30:7-9